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Missourians dominate wild turkey calling competition

Missourians brought home more titles from the 1998 National Wild Turkey Federation turkey calling championship than callers from any other state.

St. Louisan Steve Stoltz won the title "Champion of Champions." Walter Parrott of Fredericktown and Chris Parrish of Mexico were the first and second runners-up, respectively, in the senior turkey calling division.

Parrish was on the two-man team that won the team calling championship, and Conservation Department Public Relations Specialist Ralph Duren was first runner-up in the gobbling contest.

Black bass season to open May 23

A quirk in the calendar has prompted the Conservation Department to move up the opening date of black bass season this year.

The Wildlife Code says that black bass taken from streams in the specified zone south of the Missouri River may not be possessed from March 1 through the Friday before Memorial Day.

Normally, this results in black bass season opening on the Saturday before Memorial Day. Memorial Day falls on Saturday, May 30 this year, so black bass season should open on May 30.

However, Memorial Day is observed on May 25 this year, five days before black bass season should open according to the Wildlife Code. This means that anglers wouldn't be allowed to keep black bass in the specified zone while celebrating Memorial Day.

Rather than confuse anglers and deprive them of the pleasure of keeping bass over the holiday weekend, conservation agents will recognize May 23 as the season opener.

The Conservation Commission is considering changing the wording of the provision for black bass season in the Wildlife Code so that Missourians can bring home a mess of black bass on all future Memorial Day weekends.

Anglers should note that several streams in the specified zone have special regulations on black bass fishing. For details of these regulations and a description of the designated zone, see the 1998 Summary of Fishing Regulations, available wherever fishing permits are sold.

Fishing is kid stuff May 16-17

Think about taking a youngster fishing at a trout park on May 16. That's Kid's Fishing Day.

Fishing permits are never required for youths under age 16, except in Missouri's four trout parks, where everyone needs a daily fishing tag. But on Kid's Fishing Day, kids 15 and younger can fish free, even at trout parks.

The parks celebrate the event with fishing derbies that award prizes to young anglers. For more information about Kid's Fishing Day at trout parks, contact:

  • Roaring River Hatchery near Cassville, (417) 847-2430;
  • Bennett Spring Hatchery near Lebanon, (417) 532-4418;
  • Montauk Hatchery near Licking, (573) 548-2585;
  • Maramec Spring Hatchery near St. James, (573) 265-7801.

Also worth noting is the extension of National Fishing Week to include two weekends. The event runs from May 30 through June 7 this year.

For information about National Fishing Week events in your area, call the nearest Conservation Department office.

Missourians pitch in on river cleanup effort

Since the first National River Cleanup Week in 1992, Americans have picked up trash and litter from 55,300 miles of streams nationwide. Why not join the effort this year, helping with the stream you love best?

This year's event is May 9-16. Missouri, with its 1,000-plus Stream Teams, will be a hotbed of stream-cleaning activity.

America Outdoors, the nation's largest association of fishing and canoeing outfitters and guides, is the clearinghouse for stream cleanup event information. To learn about events in your area, call (423) 558-3595.

Chigger brew relieves misery

Last winter's mild weather could mean a plague of chiggers this summer. Before you encounter these pesky mites, make up a batch of "Chigger Brew." Ingredients and proportions are: benzocaine, 10 percent; methyl salicylate, 2 percent; salicylic acid, 0.2 percent; ethyl alcohol, 73 percent; distilled water, 14.8 percent.

Wildlife Management Biologist David Pitts refined this recipe, starting with a formula he found in a federal publication years ago. All the ingredients are sold over the counter at well-stocked pharmacies .

This is a treatment for chigger bites, not a repellent. Apply the brew when you first notice the chigger "burn," and repeat the application two or three times at two-hour intervals. It will kill chiggers before they bite if applied sparingly when you are exposed to the critters.

Stream Team is there when it counts

Every Missourian has an interest in protecting the state's streams, but those who care enough to get their feet wet really make a difference.

Members of Stream Team No. 374 from Francis Howell North High School in St. Peters were on a monthly water quality monitoring trip to Spencer Creek when they noticed a bad smell. They heard water splashing upstream, and when they investigated they found sewage flowing into the stream. They reported the problem with a cellular phone borrowed from by a passing jogger, and city officials responded in minutes.

One definition of a friend is someone who is there for you when you need them. By that definition, the members of Stream Team No. 374 and Missouri's 20,000 other Stream Team members are friends indeed to Missouri streams.

Contest offers cash prizes for budding outdoor writers

Young writers with an interest in the outdoors can win cash in the 1998 Norman M. Strung Youth Writing Contest sponsored by the Outdoor Writers Association of America.

Awards in the senior division (grades 9-12) are $300 for first place, $250 for second and $200 for third. Winners in the junior division (grades 6-8) receive $100, $75 and $50.

For contest rules, write to OWAA Headquarters, 2155 E. College Ave., State College, PA 16801-7204.

Wildlife-based recreation fuels economy

Wildlife is an $84 billion industry in the United States. A 1996 survey conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service showed that 63 million Americans enjoy watching wildlife. Anglers numbered 35 million, and hunters 14 million.

Anglers spend the most, plunking down a total of $38 billion for fishing annually. Wildlife watchers spent $29 billion annually, hunters $21 billion.

Hunters were the biggest spenders on a per-capita basis, paying approximately $1,500 each annually to pursue their activities. Per-capita spending by anglers was approximately $1,085 annually, while wildlife watchers spent an average of $460 per year on their activities.

Otter odyssey proves enlightening for all

No one will ever accuse Debo McKinney of not having a sense of humor. Above the door of his hardware store in Houston, Mo., hangs a .22 caliber rifle with a fishing rod and reel mounted beneath the barrel. A sign under the unique instrument reads, "Otter Fishing Rod."

If that sounds ominous, don't worry. McKinney is just using humor to defuse his neighbors' frustration at what they consider the sorry state of fishing in their beloved Ozark streams.

Small, gin-clear headwater streams like Hog Creek and the Big Piney River have long provided Texas Countians all the panfish and suckers they cared to eat. Now, they say, the fish are disappearing. They say the disappearance coincides with the return of the river otter to area streams, following a decade-long restoration effort.

Conservation Department Director Jerry Conley understands the reason for McKinney's grim joke. That's why he and half a dozen other top Conservation Department staffers paid McKinney a visit March 12. They toured ponds and streams and met with area residents to hear and see what has happened to fishing there.

Experts in fisheries management, furbearer biology and wildlife damage control joined area residents in examining evidence of otter activity. They traded information about otter behavior, eating habits and the condition of Ozark streams.

When the group stopped for lunch on a gravel bar on Roubidoux Creek, McKinney made an impassioned plea for conservation officials to examine the situation carefully and take action to ensure the future of fishing, as well as of otters in the Ozarks.

It was well after dark when the two groups parted company. Both said they had learned much, and agreed to meet again in May. Conley says he will form a citizen/department task force to ensure that the problem is thoroughly researched and solutions implemented.

"I'm extremely grateful to Mr. McKinney and everyone else who hosted the tour," said Conley. "It gave us a grasp of the problem that we couldn't have gotten any other way."

Footloose turtles need a brake

Have you been seeing lots of turtles crossing the road lately? May is the month of peak activity for three-toed box turtles.

The month is fraught with opportunities and peril for turtles. The abundance of food tempts them to wander far and wide, inevitably crossing roads. The resulting carnage is more than sad; it may be ecologically significant.

Racoons, skunks and foxes all prey on box turtle eggs and young. Only a small number of the reptiles reach maturity.

Fortunately, box turtles are not endangered. To keep it that way, try to avoid hitting turtles when driving. Be careful of your own safety, however. Swerving to avoid a turtle or stopping to help one across the road can lead to human injuries, and no one wants that.

If you do stop to help a turtle, pull completely off the road and move it forward in the direction it was headed when found. Place it at least 15 feet off the road, faced away from traffic to reduce the chances it will wander back into danger.

Resist the urge to take turtles home. Captive turtles seldom survive long in captivity.

Welcoming back nature's "fast crowd"

Hummingbirds live in the fast lane. They need high-octane fuel, and it's time for Missourians who treasure the company of these winged jewels to put out feeders and flowers to attract them.

Artificial nectar can be prepared by dissolving one cup of granulated sugar in five cups of boiling water. Red food coloring isn't necessary if you put the solution in a feeder that has red or yellow on it.

Don't substitute honey for sugar. Honey promotes a fungus that can kill "hummers." Wash the feeder and change the solution once a week to control bacteria.

To attract more hummingbirds, hang the feeder near red or orange tubular flowers. Good choices include petunias, salvia, cardinal flower, columbine, hibiscus, honeysuckle, nasturtiums, four-o'clocks and zinnias.

Nature Center to sponsor 'Adventure Hunt'

Something wonderful is happening in Kansas City. It's called the Passport to Adventure Hunt and it's a great way to discover nature, science and history in your own backyard.

Here's how it works. First obtain an official passport by visiting Burr Oak Woods Conservation Nature Center in Blue Springs the weekend of May 16-17. Get your passport stamped at each of 20 sites as you continue your trek around the city discovering nature centers, museums and historic sites in your neighborhood. Special events and door prizes at each site will add fun to the kickoff.

Then you have a month to visit five other sites and qualify for a grand-prize drawing.

For more information call (816) 889-7827, ext. 7483.

Join a celebration that's for the birds

International Migratory Bird Day May 9 encourages people throughout the Western Hemisphere to help address problems contributing to declines in migratory bird numbers.

Missourians will celebrate the day by taking part in bird counts in 30 counties around the state. These counts are part of a program to evaluate the status of migratory birds nationwide. The counts document population trends, how migratory birds react to environmental changes and other facts that help biologists manage migratory birds. Information about counts in Missouri is available from Jim Gast, phone (573) 449-7402.

The Springfield Conservation Nature Center will offer a program titled, "A Bird In Hand" from 2 to 5 p.m. May 8 and 9 that shows how federally licensed bird banders capture and mark birds in order to gather information about them.

The Springfield nature center will offer a warbler walk from 7 to 10 a.m. May 9. Registration is required for this program. Call (417) 888-4237.

Burr Oak Woods Conservation Nature Center will sponsor a bird identification workshop at 9 a.m. May 9 followed by a bird hike at 10:30 a.m. Advance registration is required. Call (816) 228-3766.

Time for Treescape Award nominations

You have until August 1 to nominate your community's outstanding tree planters for the Conservation Department's Town Treescape Awards program.

Treescape awards recognize outstanding tree planting projects that make cities and towns more beautiful and livable. The competition is divided into two divisions. Division A has categories for commercial, industrial, institutional, governmental, recreational and residential (not including single-family home) projects.

Division B recognizes plantings on municipal property. All Missouri communities can enter, as long as the trees are planted on land owned or controlled by a school, town or city government.

Treescape award nomination forms are available from the Conservation Department, Forestry Division, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, 65102-0180.

Coming soon to a forest near you: periodical cicadas!

Periodical cicadas are big, black, noisy bugs with beady red eyes and orange wings. They can damage trees, but they are harmless to people, and they provide a food bonanza for birds and other insect-eating predators. They are an intriguing mystery for naturalists.

At least 20 kinds of cicadas live in Missouri. Six are periodical cicadas, which have the longest life cycles of any cicada, and occur only in eastern North America.

Periodical cicadas exist as three species pairs. The two members of a pair are identical except for the difference in life cycle; one member of the pair has a 13-year cycle, while the other has a 17-year cycle.

Theoretically, every 221 years the emergence of a pair coincides, enabling the two groups to interbreed. This complicated scenario is further confused by the existence of several broods, or year classes, of periodical cicadas, which are completely isolated in time from other broods.

These peculiarities have intrigued scientists for decades. This year represents the first year since 1777 that two large broods of 17- and 13 year cicadas have emerged together in Missouri. This coincidental emergence may provide researchers with answers to some of the species' mysteries.

A "chorus" of periodical cicadas can produce sound levels that are painful to human ears They can even drown out lawn mowers.

Only male cicadas sing. They do it to attract females in order to mate. Males are attracted to loud choruses also, since louder choruses attract more females and increase the chances of finding a mate. Tremendous chorusing centers can develop, broadcasting the availability of male cicadas like giant loudspeakers.

After mating, female cicadas use bladelike "ovipositors" on their abdomens to slice into tree twigs and deposit eggs. In six to eight weeks, young cicadas emerge and drop to the ground. They burrow into the soil, where they suck liquid from roots.

Thirteen or 17 years later, the nymphs tunnel up through the soil, crawl up tree trunks and struggle free of their outer skins. Then they take flight, leaving their crunchy shells clinging to the trees' bark.

Adult periodical cicadas live 4 to 6 weeks. Predators find them easy prey. A key to their survival may be a tactic called "predator swamping." One acre of prime bottomland forest can produce 1.5 million periodical cicadas, so many that predators can't eat them all. This guarantees that some cicadas will survive to produce the next generation.

The last time periodical cicadas emerged in large numbers here was in 1985, when 13-year cicadas emerged throughout much of Missouri, except the northwestern counties. That emergence began on May 11 in southwestern Missouri and on May 12 in the St. Louis area. By late May the emergence was at its peak. By late June most of the cicadas were dead, and the woods were relatively quiet again.

This pattern should repeat itself this year, complemented by the emergence of a brood of 17-year cicadas in Northwest Missouri.

Female cicadas deposit their eggs in the twigs of all kinds of trees. Large numbers of these wounds cause die-back of twigs later in the year and the following year. This can damage saplings and fruit trees severely.

Trees can be protected by covering them with 1/4-inch bird netting or a similar fine mesh until the emergence is over. Cicadas can't cut through the netting. - Mike Arduser

Ask the Ombudsman

Q: How much land does the Conservation Department own?

A: The Conservation Department owns 783 areas totaling 753,916 acres, with at least one area in every Missouri county. Two-hundred eighty-seven leased sites add another 194,382 acres. Of the Conservation Department owned areas, 323 are fishing accesses. Most leased sites include fishing accesses or lakes.

About half of Conservation Department land has been acquired since 1976. The emphasis now is more on developing areas than on acquiring new ones. The Conservation Department holds less than 2 percent of Missouri s 44 million acres. Even adding all state, federal and local government land, almost 93 percent of the state remains in private ownership.

Is this enough land for conservation? Callers argue both ways, and public attitudes play an important role in decisions about future acquisition.

Q: Are there programs to help newcomers learn about the outdoors?

A: Contact the nearest Conservation Department nature center or office for events that might interest you. We sponsor many special nature programs, and try to keep track of others.

The private sector helps, too. Some communities and businesses offer packaged outings, and a list of known nature tours is being compiled. To receive a list of upcoming nature-related events, or to add your tour to the list, call (417) 256-1813, or the Ombudsman's office.

The Ombudsman's Office is interested in your ideas. If you have a question, suggestion or complaint about Conservation Department programs, contact Conservation Ombudsman Shannon Cave, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, 65102-0180. Phone (573) 751-4115, ext. 250. E-mail <Shannon.Cave@mdc.mo.gov>.

Spring is a "wanderful" time of year for bears

Exciting as it is to see the black bear returning to the Show-Me State, a few Missourians find out each spring that a hungry bruin can be a real bear.

Bears once roamed the entire state, but unregulated hunting resulted in their extirpation here by the early 20th century.

A few black bears survived in the wild swamplands of southeastern Arkansas, and that state conducted a restoration program from 1958 to 1968, importing about 250 bears from the upper Midwest. Those bears have prospered and now support an annual hunting season with a steadily increasing bear harvest.

As bears fill up available habitat in Arkansas, some bears, especially young males, move out of areas where bears are numerous, looking for their own territories. As a result, Missourians are seeing bears more frequently each year, and they are seeing them farther north.

For the most part, bears are shy and avoid contact with people. In the spring, however, they are hungry from their winter fast and range widely in search of food. This is the time of year when they are most likely to be lured near human habitation by the smell of pet food, livestock feeds, trash or even seed in bird feeders.

Once a bear learns to associate food with humans, it can become troublesome and potentially dangerous. If you see a bear, report the sighting to the nearest Conservation Department office and follow these recommendations:

* Never feed a bear.

* Don't leave dog or cat food bowls outside.

* Store livestock and pet foods where bears can't reach them.

* Empty trash cans often and disinfect them to minimize odor.

* Keep trash containers indoors at night.

* Don't go near a bear.

* Don't attempt to deal with a problem bear yourself.

Bears are protected under the Wildlife Code of Missouri. Wildlife damage biologists are available to handle bear problems. To get help, call any Conservation Department office or conservation agent.

Three Missourians honored for lifetime conservation achievements

An educator and two journalists have been honored for lifetime conservation achievements.

Charles M. Schlanker of DeSoto and James F. Keefe of Jefferson City became the 42nd and 43rd recipients of the Master Conservationist Award from the Conservation Department in a ceremony at Mariott's Tan-Tar-A Resort Feb. 19.

Schlanker's career as a conservation educator began as a biology teacher at Montgomery County High School. He later taught at Kansas State Teacher's College in Emporia and Jefferson College in Hillsboro, Mo. He helped create an action model of the DNA molecule that has been used in science classes worldwide.

Keefe worked for the Conservation Department for more than 36 years, heading the Information Section and editing Missouri Conservationist magazine for most of that time. During his tenure as editor, the magazine's monthly circulation increased from 20,000 to nearly 400,000

Achievements as a citizen conservationist brought Max C. Hamilton of Chillicothe honors at the National Wild Turkey Federation's 25th anniversary awards banquet in Indianapolis, Ind., Feb. 28.

Hamilton was instrumental in organizing state and local Wild Turkey Federation organizations in Missouri and served as the 150,000-member group's national president.

Hamilton wrote and edited the Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune's outdoor page for more than 50 years and earned the Roger Latham Sportsman's Service Award, the C.B. McCloud Distinguished Service Award and the Conservationist of the Year Award from his local Wild Turkey Federation chapter.

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